New England Patriots – Fixing the Offense, not the Defense

While usually it is the defense and secondary of the New England Patriots that get most of the criticism for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick missing out on a fourth Super Bowl ring these past few years, taking a look at some of the numbers suggest that their offense is just in need of a fix, at least when you look at their playoff performances and not the regular season.

After all, with ambitious franchises like the Patriots, all that matters is that last game of the season, and whether you walk off the field as a winner or a loser. For the last eight seasons, it’s been always walking off the field in disappointment, including 7 times in the playoffs, two of them being Super Bowl losses.

Some Numbers to Think About

Offense Defense NE Points Opp Points Off Def
Year Pts Game Pts Game Loss Win Delta Delta
2012 34.8125 20.6875 13 28 -21.8125 7.3125
2011 32.0625 21.375 17 21 -15.0625 -0.375
2008 36.8125 17.125 14 17 -22.8125 -0.125

The Patriots three most memorable losses of the past few years have been their two Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants and the recent AFC Championship game loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Pats were the favorites to win all three games – their undefeated season when playing the Giants for a first time, including beating them on the final day of the regular season; The second Super Bowl after a 13-3 regular season, although the hinges creaking were heard as they were lucky to escape the AFC title game against the Ravens with the win.

And this year? “Rock Bottom”, at least in Pats terms, scoring only 13 points against the Ravens, including an embarrassing second half collapse. All season the story was the Patriots being unable to win the close games if they enter the fourth quarter with a lead, including an earlier loss to the Ravens. Against the Ravens, at home, it wasn’t even about being close. It was about their offensive scheme falling apart.

Yes, they have missed Rob Gronkowski to injuries, giving them a slight excuse. But there is a pattern, and whatever it is that makes the Patriots so successful in the regular season just isn’t enough to close the deal with three-four wins in the playoffs, for whatever reason. Maybe Tom Brady is a choker in his ‘Golden Boy’ mode, unlike the previous part of his career. Maybe Bill Belichick isn’t that genius of a coach. Maybe playing in the weak (most of the time) AFC East buffs up their stats, and when the better teams, including better prepared come along, the real Patriots come into light.

Great offenses should be at least good during the postseason. You can’t win on defense alone, especially when you don’t have a good enough defense to pull you through bad performances. Maybe it’s just a one-game kind of drop, but when it happens year after year in games that on paper they’re supposed to win, it probably means there’s something wrong in the kingdom of Brady and Belichick.

Image: Source Stats: Footballoutsiders